MORRIS – At about 5 p.m. Wednesday, a sea of red shirts hovered around the Nystedt residence in Morris, equipped with homemade signs and giant smiles, anxiously awaiting the arrival of one obviously well-loved man – Mitch Nystedt.
Fifteen minutes later the crowd – more than 100 people strong – lined the road just before Mitch’s car turned the corner. At the first sight of him, his friends, family members, neighbors and students erupted with cheers.
Mitch was finally home.
“It’s just a miracle,” Mitch’s mother, Mary Nystedt, said with tears in her eyes moments after his arrival. “This whole year has been one big miracle.”
Last June, Mitch suffered a massive stroke while undergoing surgery to have a thyroid nodule removed. The stroke immobilized the right half of his body.
He spent the next 11 months in and out of rehabilitation centers and hospitals, teaching his paralyzed muscles to walk, talk, write, cook and do other daily tasks again.
Most recently, Mitch was in a rehabilitation center in Nebraska where specialists worked daily to strengthen his right side and help him relearn some of his favorite activities.
Wednesday marked the first time since June that Mitch was back home in Morris.
“You guys, this is a good thing. This is good for my heart,” Mitch said emotionally after stepping out of the car.
While he was away, Mitch’s wife, three children and core group of friends – known locally as the Mitch Madness committee – worked tirelessly to make sure Mitch could come home as soon as possible. That involved remodeling the Nystedt home to make it wheelchair accessible.
“If you ask him, he’s going to walk all around the house and only use the wheelchair for outside,” said his wife, Wendy Nystedt. “But if he, God forbid, takes a step backward, he may need to use the wheelchair again.”
Revamping the house was expensive, Wendy said, but the Nystedt’s close friends held several Mitch Madness fundraisers which raised more than $38,000 to put toward the renovation costs and medical expenses.
“We just wanted to help the family because we knew how much they had to do,” longtime friend and Mitch Madness member Pam Simpson said. “I know that if it were any of us in this situation, Mitch would be right there to help us. I think for all of us, it was just natural to step in and help.”
Known by friends for his involvement in the community, Mitch is a former Morris Community High School math teacher and was serving as the principal of Sandwich High School at the time of his stroke.
“He’s just amazing, the most amazing man,” Peace Lutheran Church Pastor Luanne Bettisch said. “He’s such a huge presence in our congregation that there has just been this empty spot for such a long time.”
Bettisch said Mitch was scheduled to walk through the church Thursday morning to help him re-navigate the building.
As of now, Mitch is mobile but needs a cane. He walked up the stairs and into his home Wednesday using his cane and leaning on a few friends and physical trainers.
Wendy said loved ones are doing everything they can to help Mitch regain his independence.
Mitch’s children – Haley, Molly and Trevor – said they are most looking forward to having a cookout with their dad who is the Nystedt household chef.
“It’s just good to have him home with the kids,” Wendy said. “We’ve wanted this for so long.”